Ottery boy drowned in pool after carers ‘lost track’ of him

A couple running a council-approved respite centre stood and talked as an Ottery boy drowned in the pool in front of them, an inquest heard.

Phillip Crofts said he and his wife presumed Adrian Pullman, who was autistic, was doing a ‘pretend dive impression’ when they saw him slumped over in the shallow end.

The 11-year-old died just hours after being left by his father at Little Farm, Southleigh, on August 10, 2003.

Adrian had only been sent to the isolated care home near Colyton because his regular carer was suffering from depression, according to a statement from his father read out on Monday, the first day of the reopened proceedings.

Roger Pullman, from Gosford near Ottery St Mary, has been waiting more than eight years to find out the circumstances surrounding his son’s death, after an inquest was opened and immediately adjourned back in 2003.

The coroner, Dr Elizabeth Earland, admitted it had taken a ‘very, very long time’ for the case to be re-opened.

She explained it was a ‘very complex inquest’, and said a lack of resources had contributed to the delay.

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At County Hall in Exeter statements were read out from Mr Crofts and his wife, Christine Shuttleworth-Crofts, who had been using the 50-acre farm as a foster home for two years.

They said Adrian was dropped off by his dad around 4pm and spent time in their pool with the several other children in their care.

Phillip Crofts said he lost track of Adrian for less than five minutes, before finding him and another boy with learning difficulties back in the shallow end of the swimming pool.

The couple both admitted they thought nothing was wrong at first, and it was only when another boy jumped in and pushed his body they became concerned.

Roger Pullman wiped away tears as he heard how they were unable to resuscitate Adrian because his airway was blocked with food and his tongue was swollen.

He was airlifted to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The conclusion of a post mortem was the 11-year-old’s death by drowning was caused by a minor brain infection, but an expert witness disputed these findings.

Dr Richard Appleton, a consultant paediatric neurologist at the Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool, told the coroner on Monday he believed Adrian simply drowned.

The inquest continues.